Check out Scoble on Cisco’s HD telepresence. I think he’s underestimating the impact. I’m on the road every month, sometimes two or three times, and I hate the airlines and the whole travel system with the heat of a thousand suns. Plus, I probably cost Sun the best part of $100K a year in travel expenses. Suppose you have a population of employees like me; cutting travel costs in half for six of us would cover the $300K price point. Plus, think of the extra efficiency we’d get from not spending all those endless hours in lines at airports. Of the travel I do, some part is actually need-to-be-there stuff; but if the HD telepresence prices can be brought down a little and the virtual meetings cranked up a little, this stuff is not that far from having slam-dunk ROI.


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From: Simon Brocklehurst (Oct 23 2006, at 10:37)

Since the time that video conferencing systems first came in, people have justified the cost by saying, "think of how much we'll save on the travel budget!"

Somehow though, whenever a company brings in video conferencing, its travel costs never seem to go down. So, whatever the major benefit of video-conferencing is, it's not about saving money on travel.


From: Dervala (Oct 23 2006, at 11:19)


I wonder how the Giants games will look in Vancouver, though?


From: Norman Walsh (Oct 23 2006, at 11:56)

Maybe. It sure looks cool. But for technical meetings, which are the

only sort I'd be inclined to travel for, the important part of a

face-to-face is the ability to gesticulate at a white board and argue

about, uh, I mean discuss points of contention over coffee and beer.

It's not obvious that the sophisticated camera/image trickery is going

to extend to whiteboard distances and rapidly moving participants.

Still, throw enough money at it and maybe it can be made to work.

Looks like progress, anyway.


From: Steve Loughran (Oct 23 2006, at 13:16)

Having used the HP Halo room product, I must say, yes, immersive conferencing is very profound. But it is very latency sensitive. Not only are you consuming a lot of b/w, the conferencers want to give those packets priority. The HP story is 'low latency, secure comms is part of the package', Cisco's is 'we will sell you all the routers, too'.


From: Rimantas (Oct 23 2006, at 13:29)

I am sure you've seen this, but just in case:


From: Eliot Kimber (Oct 25 2006, at 14:58)

I remember using an ancient video conference room at IBM back in the late '80s and it was horrible, worse than a simple conference call because the system was so flaky and you kept looking at the screen or the camera. I tried using video chat for a while a few years ago but it was just distracting and didn't really add to the communication. Same reason video phones never caught on. (I observe that the only place you see video phones is in sci-fi movies where visual is always better).

It didn't mention it in the article but for this to really work the camera has to be positioned so that when you look at the image of someone across the table they see you looking at them and not at a camera. I know there as an article not too long ago in Wired or Fast Company or some such about about a similar room that Pixar or Disney or one of those movie companies set up specifically so that they could do telepresence reviews of things like story boards. It was frightfully expensive but it seemed to work.

As somebody who works on teams distributed across Asia and North America and who doesn't really want to go to Asia for work, such a system would be quite a boon although I think you'd have to test it carefully to see if it was a half million dollars more effective than just using email and con calls and IM and WebEx.

But I also suspect that this is a technology where a small improvement is usability and response takes it from junk to almost as good as being there. Clearly latency is a big issue.

But it would also be very cool if we could have our weekly standards meetings around a virtual table instead of on the phone--maybe FO 1.1 wouldn't have taken 5 years to get done....


From: Simon Phipps (Oct 28 2006, at 13:10)

I actually delivered a keynote a conference in Melbourne last week, from my hotel room in California. I was using Skype (the beta with video support) and a borrowed firewire camera. They had a PC at their end, and clicked the slides forward as I spoke.

The conference organisers expressed extreme satisfaction. For me, the experience lacked all the positive interaction I expect from a keynote (both during the speech and before and after at the event) but it was great to avoid the round trip to Australia, where I could not have either stayed for the week because of all the work on open sourcing the Java implementations nor justified attending for one day.

I'll be doing this again, I am sure. HD is of no interest though; simple telepresence via iChat or Skype is enough for this application.


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